Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Masta Ace (feat. Ed O.G.) -- "Ei8ht Is Enuff" (2009)


When it's time to get wild on the stage
I can spit eights like Lynn Swann, Alan Page,
Or maybe Randy Moss in his college days

Today is January 31, so tomorrow is the first day of February -- and that means the 2012 model of "29 Posts in 29 Days" makes its debut in a mere 24 hours.  

I see you shivering with antici- . . . -pation! 


But 2 or 3 lines would be amiss if it didn't feature a football-themed song before getting all wrapped up in the extravagant, fanciful, and elaborate construction that is "29 Posts in 29 Days."  After all, it's Super Bowl week!  

Country-western music seems to be the preferred genre of football fans -- Faith Hill does the NBC Sunday Night Football theme song, a Big & Rich track is featured on ESPN's College Gameday, and Monday Night Football kicked off for years with a Hank Williams Jr., song.  (Last fall, ESPN dropped the Williams song after Hank Jr. dropped a rather odd reference to Hitler while talking about President Obama and House Speaker Boehner playing golf together.)

But while basketball would probably rank as the favorite sport of rappers, there are a lot of football references in hip-hop songs.

Just one year ago, Lil Wayne was getting a lot of attention with his song "Green and Yellow," which was released just before last year's Packers-Steelers Super Bowl.  "Green and Yellow" is a spoof of Wiz Khalifa's huge hit, "Black and Yellow," which pays tribute to the sports teams of that Pittsburgh native's hometown.  (Black and gold are the colors of the Steelers, the Pirates, and the Penguins.)


Lil Wayne is a New Orleans native, but is proud to be a cheesehead:

Yeah, uh-huh, you know what it is
I'm a cheesehead, y'all n*ggas Cheez Whiz
Pittsburgh Steelers, that's nothin'
That Super Bowl ring, that's stuntin'
Lil Wayne at Super Bowl XLV
Next Weezy takes on the beloved Steeler "Terrible Towel" -- a rally towel created in 1975 by the late Myron Cope, who was the radio voice of the Steelers for 35 years
This is Green Bay -- bitch, we go hard
This is Packer Country, where's your green card?
Terrible towels, that sh*t's borin'
We got the ball, you know we scorin'
In the last verse of "Green and Yellow," Lil Wayne continues to hammer on the Steelers.  He even belittles the team's legendary "Steel Curtain" front four, which helped Pittsburgh win four Super Bowls in six seasons in the late 1970s.  He plans to smoke a big cigar to celebrate the Packers' victory, but his cigar will be filled with "Amsterdam" -- a euphemism for marijuana.  
Big Gs on the helmet
Steel Curtain? What is that, velvet?
And if we win, I'ma throw a Super Bowl party
And blow a cigar like Vince Lombardi
I'm in Wisconsin, smoking Amsterdam
Yeah I'm from New Orleans, but I been a Packers fan
We knocked the Eagles and the Falcons and the Bears off
Now we 'bout to cut Troy Polamalu's hair off

I haven't heard any comparable Super Bowl-themed hip-hop songs this year.  Surely there are rappers out there who are fans of the Giants and the Patriots.

No one team appears to be the clear favorite of the hip-hop community -- a lot of NFL teams have rappers as loyal fans.  For example, Ice Cube is a Raiders loyalist, while Brooklyn native Jay-Z roots for the Jets and Snoop Dogg (a Los Angeles native) is a Steelers fan.  

But rappers do appear to have a favorite NFL player: Randy Moss, the phenomenally talented but badly behaved wide receiver who retired from the NFL before the 2011 season.  (Since no NFL team wanted to touch him with a ten-foot pole at that point in his career, it was a good time to retire.)  

When I searched the indispensable hip-hop website, Rap Genius, for "Randy Moss" references, I got 23 hits.  By contrast, "Chad Ochocinco" generated a measly three hits.  (Surprisingly, Tim Tebow is mentioned in a lot of hip-hop songs.)

My personal favorite Randy Moss rap song is Outkast's Grammy-winning "The Whole World" (2002).  These lines are from the verse contributed by Outkast collaborator, Killer Mike, who compares his ability to catch a musical beat to Randy Moss's ability to catch a football without breaking stride:

Glitter, glisten, gloss, floss
I catch a beat running like Randy Moss

"The Whole World" is a delightful little ditty -- even those of you who claim not to like rap music will enjoy it -- and the official music video is very cool:



If you are a fan of today's NFL but are old enough to remember watching the Dolphins, Cowboys, Steelers, and Vikings powerhouses of the 1970s, you'll appreciate the lines quoted at the beginning of today's post, which are taken from the veteran New York City rapper Masta Ace's 2009 song, "Ei8ht is Enuff."

Let me quote those lines once more for your convenience:

When it's time to get wild on the stage
I can spit eights like Lynn Swann, Alan Page,
Or maybe Randy Moss is his college days
When he was goin' through that childish phase

Masta Ace can certainly "spit eights" (which refers to his gift for rapping in eight-measure or eight-line verses).  But what is the significance of his mentioning NFL stars Lynn Swann (the Hall of Fame wide receiver for the Steelers who ran for governor in Pennsylvania in 2006 but lost), Alan Page (a Hall of Fame defensive lineman for the Vikings who is now an associate justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court), and Randy Moss (who should be in the Hall of Fame someday, but whose checkered legal history and infamous pseudo-"mooning" of the crowd in a 2005 NFL playoff game will probably prevent him from pursuing a career in politics or on the bench)?

Randy Moss pretending
 to moon Packers fans
 It's really quite simple.  Swann and Page both wore jersey number 88 in the NFL, while Moss wore number 88 when he played college football at Marshall University.

Perhaps the ultimate football-related rap song is "Queen's Gambit" (2005) by the rapper GZA, who was one of the founders of the legendary hip-hop collective, the Wu-Tang Clan.

"Queen's Gambit" refers to 31 of the 32 current NFL football teams.  Most of the references are obvious, but some are a little tricky -- GZA is not above using a homonym or a near-homonym for a few of the team names.  Let's see if you can figure out the 31 that are mentioned in this rap.  If you can, you'll be able to deduce which team is not mentioned.



I'll even give you the lyrics to help you out:

She dated jolly green giants that flew on jets
An A-list actress, who was never walked off sets
She loved stuffed animals, especially bears
Was a role model, like a cardinal to our peers
A patriotic tomboy, like Mary Ellen from The Waltons
A former lifeguard, who had the skills of a dolphin
When I met her, she was in drama school and wore bengals
Drove a Bronco, and she was far from star-spangled
Had basic skills, and worked part time in mills
Raised buffalos, cause she was behind them bills
Had a man who always roared like lion
A domestic violent cat, tackled the girl and kept her crying
Couldn't care, she was losing her hair, from depression
She was in the air, and there was some room for interceptions
I told her to stay strong, not to be ashamed
You're a ten, I see, you just need to tighten your game
Her ancestors were chiefs, who ran with running deer
On the sail with the seahawks, who battled the buccaneers
The redskin garments was suede coatliners
Held rare coins frequently sought from gold miners
They were hard-working warriors, we call overtimers
Shot plenty arrows at cowboys and 49ers
Her interesting background but quite unusual
Great for a script but out of bounds for a musical
She told me to call her if I came to town
I started textin' her soon as my plane had touched down
Holding my luggage in the hand that revealed the bad scars
She pulled up at arrivals, driving the Jaguar
Her brown skin was soft, her legs beautifully shaven
Her house was fly, sitting on the roof was a raven
As we entered, I heard laughter
She walked into a large living room, I went after her
There was two of her girlfriends playing chess like they were Vikings
Militant as panthers, their resemblance was striking
Had on thongs, high heels, and belts that was garter
Energized like phones that just came off the charger
I introduced myself to gain yardage
'Cause anything less than smooth would have been straight-up garbage
The shorter one met me when I had a SkyPager
Thought I rolled with robbers, stealers and panty raiders
She took fruit from the orange bowl, it was in season
One of them said she loved the juice and kept squeezing
I knew that I was gonna get wined and dined
It would have been a penalty not to pass the scrimmage line
Now I laid back and relaxed, waiting for the kick-off
One removed the lip gloss like she was bout to lick all
She caressed me with fingertips soft as velvet
Dying for me to pack her as she stroked my helmet
And I was thinking these girls was saints
But it was first and ten, and there was extra walls to paint
Before you know it, I had all three in a huddle
Buckin' like a colt before I released them puddles
They spread eagles like wide receivers
As I ram them in the endzone, and they became true believers

(Hmmm . . . I don't think "Queen's Gambit" will end up as the Monday Night Football theme song.)

Here's "Ei8ht Is Enuff."  Note that Masta Ace, who hails from New York City, is wearing a Yankees hat.  His collaborator, Boston native Ed O.G., is sporting a Red Sox cap.  Perhaps it's not too much of a leap to presume which team each will be rooting for on Sunday?



Some of you may prefer this version of "Eight Is Enough":



Here's a link you can use to buy "Ei8ht Is Enuff" from Amazon:

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Lil Wayne (feat. Drake) -- "Right Above It" (2010)


Hip-hop, I'm the heart of that
Nigga, nothin' short of that
President Carter, Young Money Democrat

What sets Lil Wayne apart from other rappers is his joie de vivre -- is there anyone in the world of hip-hop who enjoys his work more?

"Right Above It," which was a top 10 hit for Lil Wayne in 2010, features the dazzling  wordplay that is characteristic of his raps.  You think you can listen to this song once and figure it out? all the  Fuhgeddaboutit, dude -- he's like a hummingbird, flitting  from one pun and allusion and double entendre to another.  

Here's a YouTube video of "Right Above It" that gives you the lyrics.  I suggest that you listen to the song, following along with the lyrics as you listen, before we go any further.



Let's talk about just a few of the lines from "Right Above It."

In the first verse -- which is performed by Weezy's label mate and protégé, Drake, who's a pretty big deal in the world of hip-hop right now -- we learn that Drake is a fan of the movie Slumdog Millionaire:
This that "Slumdog Millionaire" Bollywood flow
My real friends never hear it from me
Fake friends write the wrong answers on the mirror for me

Drake
Drake then waxes existential about our essential alienation from our fellow man:
We walk the same path
But got on different shoes
Live in the same building
But we got different views
A little later, we learn that Drake either prefers married women to single women, thinks that two chicks are better than one, or thinks that two married women are better than one -- or all of the above.
Don't like my women single
I like my chicks in twos
But Drake's verse is just a warmup for the main event.  When Lil Wayne takes over the microphone, all hell breaks loose lyrically:

Guns turn you boys into pussies: sex change

(Lil Wayne shows his disdain for his enemies by calling them "boys" instead of "men."  He then belittles their masculinity even further. "Pussy" has multiple meanings, of course.  It is slang for the female genitalia, and also slang for a coward.  Pulling a gun on a man may "unman" him -- in other words, cause him to act like a woman.  It's as if he has undergone a sex-change operation.  Of course, a gun can also be utilized to perform a sex-change operation in a more literal sense.  But let's not go there.)

Skinny pants and some Vans
Call me Triple-A, get my advance in advance, Amen

Lil Wayne in Vans
(Most rappers don't go for tight jeans and skateboarder shoes, but the look works for Lil Wayne.  If he was a corporate bond, Lil Wayne would undoubtedly be rated AAA -- he's sitting on a lot of cash -- but the triple-A reference here may relate to his practice of insisting that concert promoters give him his advance in advance, which minimizes any ugly money squabbles later.  Amen!)
Life is a beach, I'm just playin' in the sand
(You've no doubt heard the old line, "Life is a bitch -- and then you marry one."  Life is a beach -- not a bitch -- for young Mr. Carter.)

I'm on a paper trail and ain't no tellin' where it took me
And I ain't a killer, but don't push me

Lil Wayne
(Paper Trail is the title of T.I.'s 2008 album, and Lil Wayne was featured on a hit single from that album.  Actually, we can tell exactly "where it took me" -- both Lil Wayne and T.I. went to prison after Paper Trail's release.  "I ain't a killer, but don't push me" is a line from Tupac Shakur's "Hail Mary.")

I can hand it to Drake or do a quarterback draw
Wildcat offense, check the paw prints
(Lil Wayne knows a little about football, it seems.  Not surprisingly, he's the quarterback of the team.)

Damn where you stumbled at?
From where they make gumbo at?

(They make gumbo in New Orleans, of course, and Weezy is proud to be from NOLA.)
Kane got the beat 
Jumpin' like a jumpin' jack
And you know me
I get on this bitch and have a heart attack
(Lil Wayne acknowledges his producer, Kane Beatz, who also produced "Bottoms Up" by Trey Songz -- which was featured on 2 or 3 lines a few days ago.  Wayne jumps on Kane's beat and works himself into a frenzy -- his frantic and energetic performing style resembles the writhing of a man suffering a heart attack while he is having sex.)
President Carter, Young Money Democrat

(Lil Wayne's real last name is Carter -- and he is the founder and former president of his record label, Young Money Entertainment.)

The "Young Money Entertainment" logo
There's a lot more here -- I've just scratched the surface.  Click here for Rap Genius's line-by-line explanation of the lyrics to "Right Above It."

So what do you think about Lil Wayne now?

A.  I'm a big fan
B.  I don't get it
C.  Someone should wash his mouth out with soap
D.  I think 2 or 3 lines is trying a little too hard to be hip and relevant with all these posts about rap songs -- he should grow up.

(Hint: D is definitely NOT the correct answer -- OK?  I don't care if your friend wrote it on the mirror for you.)

Once more, here's "Right Above It":




Click here to order the song from Amazon:

Friday, January 27, 2012

Waka Flocka Flame (feat. Roscoe Dash and Wale) -- "No Hands" (2010)


Girl, drop it to the floor 
I love the way your booty go 
All I wanna do 
Is sit back and watch you move 
And I'll proceed to throw this cash

Jesus said, "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."  (That's Matthew 18:20 -- the King James Version.) 

2 or 3 lines says, "For where two or three rappers are gathered together, they are almost certainly in the midst of a strip club."

Yes, rappers and strippers go together like a horse and carriage.  If I had a dollar for every rap song set in a strip joint, I wouldn't be groveling for you to click on my ads.

Waka Flocka Flame
To me, one of the most interesting things about current-day hip-hop music is how many of the songs are collaborations involving two or three different MCs.  "No Hands" is credited to "Waka Flocka Flame (featuring Roscoe Dash and Wale)," which makes it sound like Waka Flocka is the primarily responsible for the song, with a little help from Roscoe and Wale.

In reality, each of the three contribute a verse, while Roscoe Dash handles the chorus (from which the lines quoted above are taken).  So why isn't "No Hands" credited to "Roscoe Dash (featuring Waka Flocka Flame and Wale)"?  Beats me.  

Waka Flocka's real name is Juaquin Bertholimule Malphurs.  He was born in Queens, but his family moved to Georgia when he was nine.  His mother is the CEO of an Atlanta-based management company whose client roster includes several other rappers.

Wale
Wale's real name is Olubowale Victor Akintimehin.  He was born in Washington, DC, to Nigerian parents who later moved to the Maryland suburbs.

Wale (which has two syllables -- "wah-lay") graduated from Quince Orchard High School in Gaithersburg, which isn't far from the world headquarters of 2 or 3 lines.  (I've even refereed basketball at good ol' Quince Orchard.)  

Roscoe Dash (whose parents know him as Jeffery Johnson, Jr.) was born in Little Rock but now lives in Atlanta.  He released a seven-song EP late last year, but has yet to release an album.  But if his work on "No Hands" is any indication, this boy is ready for the big time.

Check out Roscoe's hair, dude!
This song is pretty much what you'd expect from three young MCs rapping about going to a strip joint.  The lads do a lot of drinking and a lot of rainmaking.

In case you don't know -- although I doubt there are any 2 or 3 lines readers who are that clueless -- is when you pay tribute to a stripper by throwing a handful of paper money into the air so the bills flutter down on the stage where the stripper is "dancing."   The effect is like it's raining money.

Here are a few rhymes from "No Hands":

I'ma sip Moscato and you gonna lose them pants
And I'ma throw this money while you do it with no hands  (Roscoe)
DJ, this my favorite song
So I'ma make it thunderstorm
Flood warning! (Waka)
"Rain, rain go away" 
That's what all my haters say
My pockets stuck on overload 
My rain never evaporate (Roscoe)
I hope the ladies brought umbrellas, because it's exceptionally rainy in the club tonight!

Lil Wayne's about to make it rain!
I have to admit that one of Roscoe's rhymes puzzles me:
Them n*ggas tippin' good, girl 
But I can make you flush
'Cause I walk around with pockets 
That are bigger than my bus 

Roscoe's pockets are bigger than his bus?  What's up with that weak-ass rhyme, bro?

I won't bother explaining the rest of the strip-club slang in "No Hands."  You might get the wrong idea about me.  (I honestly can't remember the last time I was in a strip joint.  It was at least 30 years ago.)  Plus you've got Internet access -- you can look sh*t up just as easily as I can.

Here's the official video for "No Hands," which was not shot in a strip club.  The lyrics have been heavily censored.  (This video has been viewed over 45 million times, boys and girls.)



For my fellow First Amendment fans, here's an uncensored version of "No Hands."




And here's a video I came across when I was searching for the previous video.  (You'll be sorry . . .)



Here's a link you can use to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Trey Songz (feat. Nicki Minaj) -- "Bottoms Up" (2010)


Can I get that 'Tron?
Can I get that Remy?
Can I get that Coke?
Can I get that Henny?
Trey?  I was like, Yo Trey!
Do you think you can buy me a bottle of rosé?

It's only a few more days until 2 or 3 lines kicks off what has become an eagerly-awaited February tradition: "29 Posts in 29 Days."  (Most years, it's 28 days, of course-- but this is a leap year.)  

Right now, you're probably feeling a bit like Tony and Maria did in West Side Story -- the minutes seem like hours . . . the hours go so slowly . . . and still the calendar says January

Our last few January posts are going to feature several of the best rap songs from 2010 -- I meant to write about all of them last year, but time has a way of getting away from me sometimes.

The first 2 or 3 lines post after "29 Posts in 29 Days" will feature the absolutely, positively best hip-hop track from 2011 -- let's see if any of you can correctly guess what it's going to be.

Trey Songz
"Bottoms Up" was a monster hit by Trey Songz.  It's a pretty generic hip-hop song about a good-looking guy with lots of money (his sobriquet for himself is "Mr. Steal Yo' Girl") who has gone to a club in search of young lovelies.  

Like a Boy Scout, Trey's motto is "Be prepared" -- he's prepared with sufficient cash to get those babes drunk out of their minds.  
Bottoms up, bottoms up
Pocket full of green
Girl, you know I love the way 
You shake it in them jeans
Yes, Trey loves the way the hotties in the club shake it in them jeans, but he likes it even more when they are shaking it sans them jeans.
What elevates "Bottoms Up" into the top echelon of recent rap songs is the presence of Nicki Minaj, who is making a habit out of absolutely stealing the show whenever she contributes a verse to another star's song.  That is exactly what she does here.

The chorus of "Bottoms Up" begins with these lines:

Bottoms up, bottoms up
Hey, what's in your cup?
Got a couple of bottles
But a couple ain't enough

Nicki Minaj in
"Bottoms Up"
That turns out to be the understatement of the century when Mr. Steal Yo' Girl runs into a platinum-blonde Nicki at the club.  They are a match made in . . . well, certainly not heaven.  (Maybe the other place?)  He's shallow and self-centered and really, really drunk, and so is she.

In the first lines of the verse she contributes to "Bottoms Up" (which are quoted at the beginning of this post), Nicki asks for a rather pricey alcohol smörgåsbord: Patrón tequila ($52.95 a bottle and up), Rémy Martin cognac ($31.99 for the VSOP), Hennessy cognac ($49.95 for the VSOP), and last but certainly not least, Dom Pérignon Rosé champagne ($300 and up, depending on the vintage).

Nicki's a very busy women, so she doesn't waste a lot of time when she goes to a club -- she gets right down to business when a potential suitor approaches her:

I don't say "Hi"
I say "Keys to the Benz?"    

Nicki's verse ends with some very odd lines about the late Anna Nicole Smith:

Yellin' all around the world
Do you hear me?
Do you like my body?
Anna Nicki
Rest in peace to Anna Nicole Smith
Yes, my dear, you're so explosive
Say hi to Mary, Mary and Joseph
Now bottoms up
And double my doses!

The "Do you like my body?" line is a reference to the late Anna Nicole Smith's appearance on the "American Music Awards" television broadcast in 2004, when she threw up her hands and asked the audience, "Like my body?"  Her slurred speech and bizarre behavior led to speculation that she was under the influence of some kind of drugs -- perhaps prescription painkillers.

Here's Anna Nicole's appearance.  I'm guessing someone doubled her doses earlier that evening:


Here's the official music video for "Bottoms Up."  (Almost 54 million views!)  Nikki's verse begins at 2:43 of the video, and I don't blame you a bit if you skip ahead to that point in the video -- that woman is a force of nature, boys and girls.



Here's a link you can use to order "Bottoms Up" from Amazon:

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Kings of Leon -- "Molly's Chambers" (2003)

You’ll plead
You’ll get down on your knees
For just another taste
And when 
You think she’s let you in
That’s when she fades away

The Kings of Leon consists of three brothers and a cousin -- all with the last name of Followill.

The Followill boys
The Followill brothers were the sons of a United Pentecostal Church preacher.  (The United Pentecostal Church is a "Oneness" denomination that rejects the traditional Christian concept of the Holy Trinity.)  For much of their childhood, their father was an itinerant preacher who traveled from church to church and revival meeting to revival meeting.  He quit the church when they were teenagers.

The Followills' parents got divorced in 1997, and the two older brothers (Caleb and Nathan) moved to Nashville to break into the rock music world.  RCA Records signed them to a contract and wanted to put a band together for them, but Caleb and Nathan wanted the band to be a family affair.  So they bought Jared a bass guitar (he was 16 at the time) and invited their cousin Matthew (who was 18) join them as well.

"We locked ourselves in the basement with an ounce of marijuana and literally spent a month down there. My mom would bring us food down," Nathan told one interviewer.  At the end of that month, the Kings of Leon had produced four songs for their record label -- including "Molly's Chambers."


I've been a fan of the Kings of Leon since my oldest son bought their first CD, Youth and Young Manhood, which was released in 2003.  They hit it big with their 2008 album, Only by the Night.  The second single from that album, "Use Somebody," won three Grammies, including "Record of the Year."  It was on the Billboard "Hot 100" for 57 weeks.

Last year, a documentary movie about the band was released.  According to one reviewer, Talihina Sky (Talihina is the small town in eastern Oklahoma where their grandfather, Leon Followill, lived) "shows brothers Caleb, Nathan and Jared Followill going from the children of a Pentecostal preacher to conflicted young men to feuding, debauchery-loving rock stars. . . . The movie shows them smoking cigarettes, guzzling whiskey, yelling at each other and vomiting, among other staples of rockumentaries."

Here's the trailer for Talihina Sky.  Not surprisingly, it looks like the father isn't crazy about his sons' lifestyle:



The title of this song come from Thin Lizzy's 1972 hit single, "Whiskey in the Jar," a traditional Irish ballad about a highwayman who is betrayed by his lover -- a woman of "negotiable virtue," according to one commentator -- and ends up in jail.

The final verse of Thin Lizzy's version of the song goes as follows:

Now some men like the fishing
And some men like the fowling
And some men like to hear
The cannonball a-roarin'
Me? I like sleeping
Especially in my Molly's chamber
But here I am in prison
Here I am with a ball and chain
While "Molly's chamber" could simply refer to Molly's bedroom, some people believe that it is a yonic reference.  Why Kings of Leon made the term plural is a good question -- I have no clue.

Here's "Molly's Chambers":


Here's a TV commercial for the VW Jetta that features "Molly's Chambers":



Here's a link you can use to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, January 20, 2012

Black Flag -- "TV Party" (1981)


WE'VE GOT NOTHING BETTER TO DO!
THAN WATCH T.V. 
AND HAVE A COUPLE OF BREWS!

You're probably wondering why I used ALL CAPS above!  The main reason is that I cut and pasted these lines from a song lyrics website that had them in ALL CAPS, and I was too lazy to type them all over again!

Henry Rollins
But ALL CAPS is how Black Flag lyrics should be printed!  That's the way lead singer Henry Rollins sang their songs, after all!

Black Flag was a hardcore punk band that was formed in Hermosa Beach (a small beachfront city just south of Los Angeles) in 1976 and stayed together for a decade.  

Like most punk bands, Black Flag's politics were anti-authoritarian and nonconformist.  They took their name from the black flag that has been associated with anarchism since the 1800s.  Because national flags are usually colorful, the black flag is sort of an anti-flag -- which is fitting, given that anarchists are opposed to the whole idea of nation-states.  

A black flag is also the opposite of a white flag.  If a white flag means surrender, then a black flag symbolizes resistance.

I first became aware of Black Flag when I saw the movie The Decline of Western Civilization, a 1981 documentary about the Los Angeles punk rock scene.  The movie was directed by Penelope Spheeris (who later directed Wayne's World and the Beverly Hillbillies movie) and featured not only Black Flag but also the Circle Jerks, the Germs, and X (one of my personal favorites).

Here's a scene from the movie showing X performing "Nausea":




Here's the entire movie:



"TV Party" begins with the band members shouting "TV party tonight!/TV party tonight!"  They reject the outside world -- "it's such a fright!" -- preferring to hang out on the couch, watching their favorite shows and drinking beer.

Every so often, one the band members shouts out the name of a favorite show -- That's Incredible, Hill Street Blues, Dallas, Quincy, Saturday Night Live, Monday Night Football, Dynasty, etc.  With great shows like that to watch and plenty of beer in the fridge, why would you ever do anything else than watch TV?

That's Incredible was a very strange show:




It's hard to believe that Hill Street Blues went off the air almost 25 years ago:




Victoria Principal was the best reason to watch Dallas.  (Maybe the best two reasons.)


Back to the song:

I WOULDN'T BE WITHOUT MY TV FOR A DAY!
OR EVEN A MINUTE!
I DON'T BOTHER TO USE MY BRAIN ANYMORE!
THERE'S NOTHING LEFT IN IT!

A small price to pay, don't you agree?

Sadly, the TV party the band members have been eagerly anticipating is not to be:

WAIT A MINUTE, MY TV SET DOESN'T WORK!
IT'S BROKEN!
WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO TONIGHT?
THIS ISN'T FAIR -- WE'RE HURTIN'!

Well, that really throws a spanner into the works -- or a sabot, if you prefer a more traditional anarchist symbol.  (A sabot is the French word for the traditional peasant's wooden shoe, which early-day Dutch unionists would throw into the gears of factory machinery when they were on strike.  Sabot is the root of the word sabotage.) 

Here's the song:



Here's a link you can use to buy it from Amazon:

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Wu-Tang Clan -- "Protect Ya Neck" (1993)

First of all, who's your A&R?
A mountain climber who plays an electric guitar?
But he don't know the meaning of "dope"
When he's lookin for a suit-and-tie rap
That's cleaner than a bar of soap

It's not easy to get your arms around the truly unique hip-hop phenomenon that is the Wu-Tang Clan.

The Wu-Tang Clan is a hip-hop collective that originally consisted of nine MCs: RZA (pronounced "rizza"), GZA, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, U-God and Masta Killa.  They recorded several classic albums as a group, but several of Wu-Tang's members were also very successful solo artists.

The group's record deal provided that its members could sign with different record labels for their solo albums, and several of them did just that -- Raekwon signed with Loud Records, which released the group's first several albums, but Method Man signed a solo deal with Def Jam, Ghostface Killah with Sony, and GZA with Geffen.


It's not easy keeping Wu-Tang's nine members straight, especially when most of them have one or more nicknames.  (For example, GZA is also known as "The Genius," while Raekwon is sometimes called "The Chef."  The late Ol' Dirty Bastard's nicknames included "Dirt Dog," "Dirt McGirt," "Big Baby Jesus," "BZA," "Peanut the Kidnapper," and "Joe Bananas.")  The group is associated with Staten Island, although several of its members came from other New York City boroughs.  

The Wu-Tang Clan's influence on pop culture went well beyond their music.  The group launched "Wu Wear" shortly after their 1993 debut album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), went platinum.  At one point there were four Wu Wear stores, and Wu Wear clothing was also sold in department stores.

A Wu Wear jacket
A Sony PlayStation video game featuring all nine members of the group was released in 1999, and several subsequent video games feature one or more of them.  And several of the group's members have appeared in TV shows and movies.         

The Wu-Tang Clan took its name from a 1981 Hong Kong martial arts movie, Shaolin and Wu Tang, which is about the rivalry between a Shaolin-style kung fu master and a Wu Tang-style sword fighter.  (If you want to learn more about the group's interest in martial arts and other influences on their music, you should read RZA's 2005 book, The Wu-Tang Manual.)

Here's a fight scene from the movie:


"Protect Ya Neck" was Wu-Tang's first single.  It begins with an excerpt from a  telephone call from a listener to a radio station during an on-air appearance by Wu-Tang.  RZA then introduces Inspectah Deck to rap the first verse, and we're off.  Eight of the nine original group members contribute verses.

"Protect Ya Neck" has an old-school, low-tech sound.  According to the Rap Genius website

The verses display Wu-Tang at its Wu-Tangiest; no [choruses] or hooks, the babbling of brilliant children with autism . . . if 1,000,000 monkeys typed on typewriters for an infinite amount of time, they would type out the complete ouevre of Wu-Tang Clan long before they stumbled on to Shakespeare.

The lines quoted at the beginning of this post are from the final verse, which is rapped by GZA.  

Before helping to form Wu-Tang, GZA had released a solo album that flopped, and his "Protect Ya Neck" verse is a rant against not only his old record company but the recording industry in general.

GZA's (a/k/a "The Genius") first album
In his opinion, record companies often "misuse" what rappers "invent."  Instead of recognizing the "slammin'" talent of genuine rappers like Wu-Tang, they try to "blow up some scrub" -- that is, promote no-talent MCs who aren't the real deal.  

GZA's record company should've "pumped" his record harder, but like many rap labels, it "got short arms and deep pockets" -- in other words, his label had plenty of money,  but its arms were too short to pull that cash out of its deep pockets.

And forget about the major labels.  For one thing, they're "scared to death" of controversial rappers like the Wu-Tang Clan.  And even if they weren't, look at the typical A&R guy.  (A&R stands for "artists and repertoire," and an A&R guy is a talent scout whose job it is to find and sign new recording artists.)  He's a "mountain climber who plays an electric guitar" is looking for "suit-and-tie rap that's cleaner than a bar of soap" instead of authentic, down-and-dirty rap that comes straight from the mean streets, which is what Wu-Tang specializes in.

Here's "Protect Ya Neck":


Here's a link you can use to buy the song from Amazon:

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Rolling Stones -- "She Said Yeah" (1965)


Dum deedle dee dum dum 
Little girl, where did you come from?
Try a little bit 
To make my mouth dribble 
Come on baby, let's ride away in the rain 
Years ago, I ran into an infomercial producer I had known for a long time at a trade show in Las Vegas.  He waxed rhapsodically about his new infomercial.

"It's a stick of dynamite!" he told me.  (This guy had been known to engage in a bit of hyperbole on occasion.)

A "stick of dynamite" is the best description I can imagine for this very high energy song, which is the first track on the Rolling Stones' 1965 December's Children album.


The Stones were "my" group when I was in junior high school, December's Children was the first album of theirs that I owned.  I knew every word of every song on that LP-- I played it to death.  

December's Children was a bit of hodgepodge.  It was divided between covers -- Chuck Berry, blues legend Muddy Waters, and C&W star Hank Snow were all represented, and there was a live cover version of "Route 66" -- and Mick Jagger-Keith Richards originals, including the #1 hit single "Get Off of My Cloud" and "As Tears Go By."

"She Said Yeah" was a cover of a 1959 hit by Larry Williams, a New Orleans R&B singer/songwriter/pianist in the mold of Little Richard, who was a close friend of his.  Williams also wrote and recorded "Bony Moronie," "Dizzy Miss Lizzie" (which might have been inspired by Little Richard's "Good Golly Miss Molly"), and "Short Fat Fannie" (which was definitely inspired by "Long Tall Sally").  All three songs were covered by the Beatles and many others.

Larry Williams
Williams was as big a badass as any modern-day rapper.  He had supposedly been a pimp before becoming a recording artist.  He was convicted of dealing drugs at the height of his musical career and spent three years in prison.  After he got out of the joint, Williams made something of a comeback.  Among other things, he produced a couple of Little Richard albums.  

But the two friends hit a major bump in the road in 1977 when Williams pulled a gun on Little Richard and threatened to kill him over an unpaid drug debt.  (Both performers were serious cocaine and heroin users, boys and girls.).

Williams may have used that gun on himself in 1980, when he was found dead from a gunshot wound to the head at age 44.  The death was ruled a suicide, but some believed he had been killed as a result of his involvement with drugs and/or prostitution.

There's an odd coda to Williams's story.  Martin Albritton is a musician who began to call himself Larry Williams after the real Williams was found dead.  He continues to claim that he is the real Larry Williams and perform under that name, despite requests from Williams's family to stop.

"She Said Yeah" was co-written by Roddy Jackson (a rockabilly singer/pianist who is often compared to Jerry Lee Lewis) and Sonny Bono.  Before there was Cher, Bono worked for Specialty Records, an independent R&B/rock and roll label whose stable of performers included Sam Cooke, John Lee Hooker, Little Richard, Lloyd Price, and Larry Williams.

Bleu de Chanel
Williams' original recording of "She Said Yeah" is very good, and the Animals included a good cover of the song on their 1964 debut album.  But both those versions pale in comparison to the Stones' recording, which is performed at a frantic tempo -- the track is only one minute, 34 seconds long.  One reviewer said "She Said Yeah" is "one of the Stones' most outta hand moments ever," and another said it sounded more like a punk song than an R&B cover.

I listened to December's Children dozens (if not hundreds) of times when I was a teenager, but I haven't played it in decades.  "She Said Yeah" appeared on my radar recently thanks to Bleu de Chanel, a "men's fragrance" (shouldn't that be an oxymoron?) introduced by the legendary French fashion house and parfumeur.

Click here for a review of Bleu de Chanel by a guy in a Mets cap.  (He seems to be serious.)

As the reviewer notes, one of the main ingredients in Bleu de Chanel is labdanum, a sticky brown resin obtained from the cistus (rockrose) plant, a flowering shrub that is native to the Mediterranean region.  In ancient times, labdanum was gathered by combing the beards and thighs of goats and sheep that grazed on the shrubs.

Cistus creticus
Bleu de Chanel has a ubiquitous television advertisement that you might have seen recently.  It features French actor Gaspard Ulliel, who tried to ride his pet dog like a horse when he was six years old, was scratched by the dog, and ended up with a big scar on his cheek. 

That's probably why the E*trade baby's mom came down on him so hard when he pulled the same stunt:


The Bleu de Chanel TV spot was directed by Martin Scorsese, who directed the 2008 Rolling Stones documentary, Shine A Light.  Scorsese used a number of Rolling Stones songs in his movies -- "Gimme Shelter" was on the soundtrack of three of his movies (Goodfellas, Casino, and The Departed).

Ulliel portrays a celebrity at a press conference who suddenly starts to have flashbacks of an old girlfriend -- a blonde who is not only hotter than hot but appears to be a lot less high-maintenance than his current squeeze.  

At the end of the spot, he suddenly makes a startling pronouncement -- "I'm not going to be the person I'm expected to be anymore!" -- and then walks away from the assembled crowd of reporters and paparazzi "like a peg-legged pirate" (to quote a Youtube commenter).

Here's the 60-second version of the Bleu de Chanel commercial:


Here's Larry Williams's version of "She Said Yeah."  Note that the first verse of his version has different lyrics than those quoted above, which are what Jagger sings:
Dum deedle dee dum dum,
Little girl, where did you come from?
You fine little thing,
You make my heart sing,
Come on baby, let me buy a wedding ring



I wonder if Jagger intended to change the words, or if the words he sang are what he thought Larry Williams was singing. 
Here's "She Said Yeah":



Click here to order the song from Amazon: